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Local organization offers residents ways to protect homes from threatening fires

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With recent brush fires in Hawaii, Firewise Communities Hawaii, part of the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Program, offered tips for residents.

"Be lean, clean and green and create a 30-foot buffer zone of defensible space around your property (which) will help reduce your risk to wildfire," said Denise Lai­ti­nen, Firewise Communities coordinator for Hawaii.

To create a defensible space:

» Prune shrubs and trees so the lowest branches are six to 10 feet off the ground.

» Remove dead leaves and plant material from around your home.

» Plant vegetation with high-moisture content or plants native to your area.

» Make sure plants closest to the house are low to the ground.

» To prevent sparks from getting lodged in or under a house, place one-eighth-inch wire mesh over vents, open spaces, ducts on the roof or under the house if it is post-and-pier construction.

» Store flammable and hazardous materials safely and away from possible sources of ignition, never under a house.

What to do if a wildfire is approaching your house:

» Call 911.

» Close all entrances and other openings. Close window coverings to prevent sparks from blowing into your house.

» Turn off residential fuel. If you use gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or meter.

» Dress to protect yourself. Wear heavy, long-sleeved cotton clothing (some synthetics are highly flammable), gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.

» Have tools and water accessible, including a ladder, shovel, rake and long water hose. Fill buckets and containers with water.

» Wet down the roof with a hose.

For more information, contact the Firewise Communities coordinator at 281-3497 or by email at firewisehawaii@yahoo.com.

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